15 Jan 2019: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. 36 years on, devadasi custom still prevalent
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Chargesheet filed in sedition case against Kanhaiya, 2 others
2. Spiritual circuit planned to link 133 places in Kerala - Swadesh Darshan scheme
3. NSA invoked against three in Bulandshahr cow slaughter case
4. Chakma and Hajong communities in a spot
5. SC notice to Centre on plea challenging snooping order
SOCIAL JUSTICE
1. Helping build urban houses faster, cheaper
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Centre to award UDAN-III routes soon
2. India to unveil Air Cargo Policy
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. An open-air lab to study effects of climate change
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY & GOVERNANCE
1. Sedition, once more (Alleged misuse of the law relating to sedition?)
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Half done (Plastic Waste Management)
2. Where the rich got their way (24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24))
F. Tidbits
1. Maharashtra committed to doubling farmers’ income by 2022
G. Prelims Fact
1. Desalination plants harm environment: UN
2. Millions flock to Sagar Island in Bengal for Makar Sankranti
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

A. GS1 Related

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. 36 years on, devadasi custom still prevalent

Context:

More than thirty-six years after the Karnataka Devadasis (Prohibition of Dedication) Act of 1982 was passed, the State government is yet to issue the rules for administering the law.

What is Devadasi System?

  • Devadasi or Devaradiyar means “servant of God”
  • Devadasi system is a religious practice mostly in parts of southern India, whereby parents marry a daughter to a deity or a temple.
  • The tradition of Devadasi culture can be traced back to as early as the 7thcentury, particularly in southern parts of India during the reigns of the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas. They were well treated and respected, and held a high social status in the society. It was common for them to be invited to be present at or initiate sacred religious rituals. As long as the temples and empires flourished, so did they.
  • The marriage usually occurred before the girl reached puberty and required the girl to become a prostitute for upper-caste community members. Such girls are known as jogini.
  • They are forbidden to enter into a real marriage.
  • It is found in all parts of India, but was more prevalent in the south. In some parts of Maharashtra and Karnataka it is still prevalent and has become a source of exploitation of lower castes. The custom has also spread to neighbouring Goa.

Issues:

  • Two new studies on the devadasi practice by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bengaluru, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, paint a grim picture of the indifferent approach of the legislature and enforcement agencies to crack down on the practice.
  • The study revealed that special children, with physical or mental disabilities, are more vulnerable to be dedicated as devadasis.
  • Researchers found that girls from socio-economically marginalised communities continued to be victims of the custom, and thereafter were forced into the commercial sex racket. 
  • The Devadasis are prone to AIDS and other health issues at a young age. Eventually, they also give birth to children, which makes it impossible for them to get out of the system 
  • The law is used sparingly in Karnataka, and focuses on prosecution (including of the victims themselves) with no framework for rehabilitation.
  • NLSIU’s Centre for Child and the Law noted in its report that despite sufficient evidence of the prevalence of the practice and its link to sexual exploitation, recent legislations such as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, and Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act of 2015 have not made any reference to it as a form of sexual exploitation of children.
  • Dedicated children are also not explicitly recognised as children in need of care and protection under JJ Act, despite the involvement of family and relatives in their sexual exploitation.
  • India’s existing immoral trafficking prevention law or the proposed Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018, also do not recognise these dedicated girls as victims of trafficking for sexual purposes.

Way forward:

The states have to ensure a more inclusive socio-economic development. NLSUI has also mooted a legislative overhaul and a more pro-active role from State agencies to curb the Devadasi system. Providing these communities with basic education and making them economically empowered, along with sensitisation, would be the ideal way forward.

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Chargesheet filed in sedition case against Kanhaiya, 2 others

Context:

Three years after “anti-India” slogans were allegedly raised on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus, the Delhi police submitted a chargesheet in the sedition case at the Patiala House Courts. The case pertains to the raising of “objectionable” slogans at the event in 2016 against the hanging of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru.

What is Sedition?

  • Sedition, in India is defined by section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 124A was introduced by the British colonial government in 1870 when it felt the need for a specific section to deal with radical Wahabi movement of the 19th
  • Section 124 A of IPC says, “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”
  • It is accepted that the first time, the act was invoked, was against Jogendra Chandra Bose, the editor of Bangobasi, for voicing against Age of Consent Bill, 1891.

Sedition laws vs Freedom of Speech and Expression:

  • It is argued that along with colonial laws like criminal defamation, laws on obscenity and blasphemy, the sedition law also runs against the ideal of Freedom of Expression, guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution. 
  • Criticism against the government policies and decisions within a reasonable limit that does not incite people to rebel is consistent with freedom of speech and expression.
  • Currently, the section is slapped against any discording entity, without any fairness. It is this grey area, which needs to be corrected. Only when it amounts to an incitement to violence, such sections should be brought in.

2. Spiritual circuit planned to link 133 places in Kerala – Swadesh Darshan scheme

3. NSA invoked against three in Bulandshahr cow slaughter case

Context:

The district administration in Bulandshahr invoked the National Security Act (NSA) against three persons arrested in connection with the alleged cow slaughtering incident in Siyana tehsil last month.

What is National Security Act?

  • The National Security Act of 1980 is an act of the Indian Parliament whose purpose is “to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith”. The act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. 
  • This act empowers the Central Government and State Governments to detain a person to prevent him/her from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India, the relations of India with foreign countries, the maintenance of public order, or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.
  • The act also gives power to the governments to detain a foreigner in a view to regulate his presence or expel from the country.
  • The maximum period of detention is 12 months, but the detention should be reported to the State Government along with the grounds on which the order has been made. No such order shall remain in force for more than twelve days unless approved by the State Government.

Issues:

  • The government can detain a person for as long as it wishes to. This is made possible by the powers of the government to continue to detain a person even after the expiry or revocation of the original detention order on the plea that fresh grounds of detention have arisen.
  • The detentions that are based on political or ideological differences go against the basic spirit of the Indian Constitution. 

Way forward:

Narrowly tailored preventive detention laws with stringent judicial controls could be appropriate to counter threats, at least in times of particular unrest.

4. Chakma and Hajong communities in a spot

Context:

Indigenous groups in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram feel that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will legitimise claims of refugee groups.

Chakmas and Hojongs:

  • Chakmas and Hajongs came to India from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), having lost their homes and land to the Kaptai dam project (Karnaphuli river) mid-1960s. They also faced religious persecution
  • Chakmas are Buddhists, while Hajongs are Hindus
  • Chakmas’ is close to Bengali-Assamese; Hajongs speak a Tibeto-Burman tongue written in Assamese

Issue:

  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, changes the definition of illegal migrants. The Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction. However, the Act doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas who also face persecution in Pakistan.
  • The petitioners have urged the court to declare the amendments made through the Passport (Entry into India) Amendment Rules, 2015; the Foreigners (Amendment) Order, 2015; and the order issued by the Home Ministry on December 26, 2016 under the Citizenship Act, allowing the naturalisation of illegal immigrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, as “illegal and invalid”.
  • The petition branded the move to differentiate “illegal immigrants” on the basis of their religion and grant them naturalisation as “communally motivated humanitarianism”.

Details:

  • The citizenship bill is facing opposition in the refugees’ main home state of Arunachal Pradesh, on claims that the move will change the demographics of the mostly tribal state.
  • The bill, if passed would serve as a legal basis for legitimising the claims of Chakma and Hajong refugees as the indigenous people of our State.
  • Southern Mizoram has had a sizeable Chakma population for ages. But there is a perception among the majority Mizos that many Chakmas have crossed over from the adjoining Chittagong hill tracts in Bangladesh following displacement by the Kaptai dam. Some came later along with some 2,000 Hajongs, who are Hindus, because of alleged religious persecution.
  • Nearly 5,000 Chakmas and a few Hajongs who had taken refuge in Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills part of Assam — were settled in Arunachal Pradesh. Indigenous groups in Arunachal Pradesh say their population has now increased to beyond 1,00,000.

5. SC notice to Centre on plea challenging snooping order

Context:

The Supreme Court sought a response from the government to a batch of petitions seeking a declaration that the December 20 government notification listing 10 central agencies that can snoop on people is a violation of the fundamental right to privacy.

Issue:

  • The December 20 order allows the central agencies, from the Intelligence Bureau to the Central Board of Direct Taxes to the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) to the Commissioner of Delhi Police to intercept, monitor and decrypt “any information” generated, transmitted, received or stored in “any computer resource”.
  • The government order is based on Section 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act of 2000 and Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.

Details:

  • The plea, filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, termed the notification empowering 10 central probe and snoop agencies under the Information Technology (IT) Act for computer interception and analysis “illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law”.
  • He also sought to prohibit the agencies from initiating any criminal proceedings, enquiry or investigation against anybody under the provisions of the IT Act based on the notification.
  • The petition alleged that the notification gives the state the right to access every communication, computer and mobile and “to use it to protect political interest and object of the present executive political party”.
  • In 2017, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the court upheld privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 (right to dignified life) of the Constitution. The judgment also directed the government to protect informational privacy of every individual.
  • The 2017 verdict directed the government to always carefully and sensitively balance individual privacy and the legitimate concerns of the State, even if national security was at stake.
  • The privacy judgment had urged the top court “to be sensitive to the needs of and the opportunities and dangers posed to liberty in a digital world”.

Category: SOCIAL JUSTICE

1. Helping build urban houses faster, cheaper

Context:

The Centre will offer about Rs. 150 crore as a technology innovation grant to build 6,000 homes – cheaper, faster and better – using alternative technologies and materials under the Global Housing Technology Challenge.

Details:

  • Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant opined that urbanizing India’s housing needs cannot be met with existing technologies. He also pointed out that most Indian developers take three years to complete a project. While the houses must be completed in four to five months’ time. He opined that the need of the hour is not technology leapfrogging, but pole-vaulting.
  • After a global expo and conference in March, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will invite bids and identify proven demonstrable technologies from around the world, which are to be adapted and mainstreamed for use in the Indian context. 
  • Six winning bidders will be invited to design and build lighthouse projects of 1,000 housing units each. Apart from state and Central assistance of Rs. 1.5 lakh each, the Centre will offer an additional technology innovation grant of Rs. 2.5 lakh for each house, PMAY (Urban) mission.
  • Another section of the Challenge will identify potential future technologies which may not yet be market ready, and offer incubation facilities and accelerator support in collaboration with four of the IITs.
  • Once innovative technologies have been tested and proved, they will be included in the Central Public Works Department list, with an approved schedule of rates.

Conclusion:

Only 12 lakh houses sanctioned under the PMAY (U) scheme have used one of the 14 alternative technologies already on CPWD’s approved list. It is opined that the technologies would still be optional for use, and there is no guarantee they would be adopted by private or government builders, or even used to construct PMAY homes. However, the states will be encouraged to use them; which would also require a mindset change.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Centre to award UDAN-III routes soon

Context:

The Union Minister for Commerce, Industry & Civil Aviation said that the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation will shortly award new regional connectivity routes under UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik) III.

UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagarik):

To read more about UDAN Scheme Click here

Details:

  • Union Minister for Commerce, Industry & Civil Aviation said that the new routes will meet lot of unmet demand and futuristic requirement of people.
  • “We are connecting incredible, inaccessible parts of India. We are going ahead with more connectivity, and working with State governments. We are also coming out with a template of doing joint ventures with States for airport development,” he said.
  • He added that at the summit, the Ministry would unveil a Vision 2040 for the aviation sector. Delegates from about 86 countries are participating in this first-of-its-kind summit.

Set back:

  • In the past, some airlines that had bid and succeeded in bagging routes did not take off 
  • Air Odisha and Air Deccan which, despite bagging many regional connectivity routes, could not launch many flights due to lack of resources. 
  • The two airlines between them had 84 routes bagged by them in round one of UDAN
  • As the two airlines accounted for two-thirds of the total 128 routes bagged by five operators in round one, their inability to start these routes meant a setback for the scheme.
  • The third round of bidding under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) for domestic routes concluded recently and 15 airlines had bid for a total 111 routes. These include a bulk of the 56 (RCS) routes withdrawn from Air Odisha and Air Deccan because of their inability to launch flights.

2. India to unveil Air Cargo Policy

Context:

India’s first Air Cargo Policy will be unveiled at the two-day Global Aviation Summit 2019.

Details:

  • A policy to provide thrust to air cargo has been drafted for the first time and will fuel the growth of the aviation sector and boost the country’s economy.
  • Over 30 countries were participating in the first-of-its-kind aviation summit.
  • Emphasising that security, safety, convenience and affordability were the key aspects, the Civil Aviation Minister said that the aviation vision for 2040 would address all the issues so that India will have sustainable growth in the sector at all times.
  • He indicated that the government is of the view that the basic objective on which the logistics and cargo policy is being put in place is based on the premise that its context is important because both logistics and cargo are one of the biggest growth-driven sectors in India after services.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. An open-air lab to study effects of climate change

Context:

In one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, the southernmost part of Chile’s Patagonia region, scientists are studying whales, dolphins and algae in order to help predict how climate change will affect the world’s oceans.

Details:

  • For the study, four researchers from the Austral University of Chile embarked from Punta Arenas for the remote Seno Ballena fjord (Strait of Magellan, 54°S).
  • It was found that fjord produces the kind of conditions that should be seen in other marine systems in the next few decades, when dramatic changes are expected in the environment due to increased carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and the melting of glaciers.
  • The chilly fjord waters provide one of the most productive marine habitats in the world, where sardines and krill can be found in huge numbers.
  • The researchers are analysing the chemical, physical and biological variables of the waters, which show lower levels of pH, salinity and calcium, especially in the most shallow areas, as a consequence of climate change.
  • Climate change poses a threat to its ecosystem as the melting of a glacier on Santa Ines island and increased rainfall have led to rising levels of freshwater. If that continues, it would have dire consequences for whales as the plankton they feed on could disappear.
  • The waters of high latitudes, both in the northern and southern hemispheres, contain a huge amount of biological and physiochemical information that can be used as a basis to take crucial decisions for environmental preservation projects in developed countries,” said biologist Maximo Frangopulos

Findings:

  • For now, researchers have noted a slight drop in the number of humpback whales but an increase in other species such as sea lions, which previously were not present in that region, and dolphins.
  • They also found a lower concentration of calcium carbonate, something which can affect the shells of marine organisms such as mollusks or krill, a staple of a whale’s diet.
  • The crab, a species vital to the economy of the region around the strait, could be affected as it needs calcium to harden its shell.

Research is being carried out to see how climate change can affect not just the baseline marine system, but also the large mammals, something that would have an impact on the region.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY & GOVERNANCE

1. Sedition, once more (Alleged misuse of the law relating to sedition?)

What is Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code?

  • Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life or any shorter term, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.
  • Explanation 1.-The expression “disaffection” includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
  • Explanation 2.-Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
  • Explanation 3.-Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.

Past Observations Made on Sedition:

  • The Law Commission, in a consultation paper released in 2018, had called for a reconsideration of the sedition section in the IPC.
  • The Law Commission, headed by Justice (retired) B S Chauhan, had said that the stringent sedition law should be invoked only in cases “where intention” behind the act is to “disrupt public order or to overthrow the Government with violence and illegal means”.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Experts opine that the slapping of sedition charges against noted Assamese scholar Hiren Gohain and two others for remarks made against the proposed citizenship law is a textbook case of misuse of the law relating to sedition.
  • The FIR against Mr. Gohain, peasant rights activist Akhil Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta relates to speeches at a recent rally that alluded to the possibility of a demand for independence and sovereignty if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was pushed through Parliament.
  • Gohain and others have obtained interim bail from the Gauhati High Court.
  • The registration of the case has caused much public outrage in Assam.

What have they been accused of?

  • In addition to Section 124A (sedition), they have been accused of entering into a criminal conspiracy to “wage war against the government of India” (Section 121) and “concealing a design to facilitate” such a war (Section 123).
  • Experts have opined that the action of the police in charging them with “offences against the state” under the Indian Penal Code is quite reprehensible.
  • It is possible that speeches at the rally organised by the Forum Against the Citizenship Amendment Bill contained strident opposition to the legislative changes that would allow persecuted non-Muslims from three neighbouring countries to obtain Indian citizenship.
  • Experts point out that the thrust of the protest, therefore, would be squarely covered by the exception to the sedition clause, which says comments expressing disapprobation of government measures with a view to obtaining their alteration do not constitute an offence, as long as there is no incitement to violence or disaffection.
  • Gohain, a Sahitya Akademi awardee, and one of Assam’s best known public intellectuals, has explained that he had intervened more than once to silence some youth who had talked about invoking their sovereignty if the Centre continued to ignore their demand.
  • In recent years, there have been many instances of State governments seeking to silence political dissent by accusing dissenters of promoting disaffection.
  • It is precisely to prevent such a heavy-handed response to strident political criticism that courts have often pointed out that the essential ingredient of any offence of sedition is an imminent threat to public order.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Unless there is actual incitement to take up arms or resort to violence, even demands that go against the legal or constitutional scheme of things would not amount to sedition.
  • Mere expression of critical views, howsoever scathing, cannot be an excuse for accusing someone of planning to wage war or promote disaffection against the government.
  • Finally, while the provision, which is couched in broad terms, needs a much narrower definition, some experts point out that the right course is to scrap Section 124A, a relic of the colonial era, altogether.

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. Half done (Plastic Waste Management)

Larger Background:

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 aim to:

  • Increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns and stipulate minimum thickness of 50 micron for plastic sheets also to facilitate collection and recycle of plastic waste,
  • Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also;
  • To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in plastic waste management system and to introduce collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per extended producers responsibility;
  • To introduce collection of plastic waste management fee through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multi-layered packaging and vendors selling the same for establishing the waste management system;
  • To promote use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil etc. for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue; to entrust more responsibility on waste generators, namely payment of user charge as prescribed by local authority, collection and handing over of waste by the institutional generator, event organizers.

Editorial Analysis:

  • India won global acclaim for its “Beat Plastic Pollution” resolve declared on World Environment Day 2018, under which it pledged to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.
  • So far, 22 States and Union Territories have joined the fight, announcing a ban on single-use plastics such as carry bags, cups, plates, cutlery, straws and thermocol products.
  • Puducherry will implement a ban from March 1, 2019.
  • It is important to note that where firm action has been taken, positive results have followed. A Bengaluru waste collective estimates that the volume of plastic waste that they collect dropped from about two tonnes a day to less than 100 kg.
  • Voluntary initiatives are having an impact in many States, as citizens reduce, reuse and sort their waste. However,, this is only a small start.
  • Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
  • It will take a paradigm shift in the manner in which waste is collected and handled by municipal authorities to change this.
  • Experts point out that governments must start charging the producers for their waste, and collect it diligently, which will lead to recovery and recycling.
  • But the depressing reality is that State and local governments are unwilling to upgrade their waste management systems, which is necessary to even measure the true scale of packaging waste.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 are clear that producers, importers and brand owners must adopt a collect-back system for the plastic they introduce into the environment. Although the rules were notified in 2016, and later on, amended and given high visibility by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, not much has been done to take the process forward.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Experts opine that at the very least, local bodies should consult manufacturers or importers to assess the problem.
  • Delaying such a measure has created the anomalous situation of small producers of plastics facing the ban, while more organised entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.
  • Such enforcement failure is not an argument in favour of relaxing the prohibition on flimsy plastics that are typically used for under 15 minutes, but to recover thousands of tonnes of waste that end up in dumping sites.
  • Cities and towns need competent municipal systems to achieve this. Again, there is little doubt that plastics play a major role in several industries, notably in the automotive, pharmaceutical, health care and construction sectors.
  • However, it is the fast moving consumer goods sector that uses large volumes of packaging, posing a higher order challenge. This calls for urgent action.
  • Experts point out that governments should show the same resolve here, as they have done in imposing the ban.

2. Where the rich got their way (24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24))

Larger Background:

  • Negotiators from 196 countries finalised a rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement at the climate change conference in Katowice, Poland.

Purpose of the rulebook?

  • The Paris Agreement seeks to keep the global average temperatures “well below” 2°C from pre-industrial times. Further, it specifies the steps that countries need to take in the fight against climate change.
  • The rulebook prescribes how to do those things, and how each of them would be measured and verified.
  • The rulebook holds the operational details of the Paris Agreement, the processes and guidelines for its implementation.
  • Notably, the rulebook is a dynamic document, as new rules can be added or existing rules amended.
  • It would facilitate the implementation of Paris Agreement which is supposed to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol in 2020.
  • Having said this, it must be pointed out that several countries and NGOs feel that the deal reached in Katowice, though welcome, was not enough.

A Look at the Highlights:

  • The Paris Agreement says every country must have a climate action plan to be periodically updated and submitted to the UN climate body.
  • The rulebook now specifies what actions can be included in the action plan, how and when to submit them.
  • Further, the Paris Agreement asks every member nation to submit information about their greenhouse gas emissions every two years.
  • The rulebook now specifies:
  1. which gases to measure;

  2. what methodologies and standards to apply while measuring them;

  3. the kinds of information to be included in their submissions.

  • Article 4 of Paris Agreement mandates nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by countries.
  • The rules now say that support shall be provided to developing country Parties for the implementation of Article 4.
  • Thus, parties shall provide the information necessary for clarity, transparency and understanding as applicable to their NDCs.
  • The Paris Agreement demands developed countries to provide “climate finance” to developing countries and submit an account of this.
  • The rulebook says what kinds of financial flows – loans, concessions, grants – can be classified as climate finance.
  • It specifies how they should be accounted for and the kind of information about them needed to be submitted.

Editorial Analysis:

  • Some experts have opined that the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held at Katowice in Poland, brings little cheer on the climate front for developing countries.
  • With the passage of the so-called “rulebook” for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the developed countries have largely succeeded in establishing a global climate regime that gives them the strategic advantage and assuages some of their core concerns.
  • This signals the making of a new, contradictory situation where the scope and complexity of the regime are fundamentally at odds with the very purpose for which the regime has been constructed.

Rollback of differentiation

  • At the heart of this strategic success is the substantial rollback of differentiation between the global North and South in climate action.
  • The first step of this process began with the Paris Agreement, when the developed nations were allowed to make voluntary commitments to climate mitigation, on par with the developing nations, without any benchmark to ensure the relative adequacy of their commitment.
  • At Katowice this process went further, with uniform standards of reporting, monitoring and evaluation for all countries. Further, these reporting requirements, while superficially impressive, appear in their true light when we realise that in their uniformity they are intended as much for Maldives as the U.S.
  • It is important to note that the real targets of this uniformity are, of course, not the poorest nations, who have been provided exemptions, but the larger developing nations.
  • Further, while all developing nations are ostensibly allowed flexibility in these reporting requirements, the concession has been hedged in with a number of conditions, with the intention of forcing them to full compliance in short order.
  • Some experts also point out that the reporting requirements are marked by a pseudo-scientific concern for stringency, which is far in excess of the accuracy of climate science itself. Indeed, the recent Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming at 1.5°C estimates substantial uncertainties in the quantum of cumulative global emissions that are still allowed before the global carbon budget of the world is exhausted.
  • In the face of such uncertainty, the requirement of reporting as little as 500 kilo tonnes or 0.05% of national emissions per country has little scientific significance. More ruinous is the uniformity of the stringency in reporting being expressed in percentage terms.
  • Elementary mathematics informs us that a smaller percentage of the emissions of a large emitter will be a larger quantity in absolute terms compared to the larger percentage of emissions of a small emitter.
  • Some experts point out that the crux of the problem is the contradiction between the onerous nature of these universal rules and the total lack of initiative by the developed countries in taking the lead in climate mitigation.
  • All developed countries continue to invest in fossil fuels either through direct production or imports. Some do so because of the downgrading of nuclear energy due to domestic political pressures. Others are still trying to wean themselves off coal by shifting to gas. Overall, as the International Energy Agency reports, the use of fossil fuel-based electricity generation continues to rise for OECD countries.
  • In the event, the dispute that broke out at COP24 over whether the Special Report of the IPCC should be welcomed or merely noted must be considered a red herring.
  • Despite the vociferous pleas of the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States for the former choice, in the absence of adequate action, such symbolic gestures are clearly of little value. Indeed, the report itself appears to have been used to generate a sense of urgency in stampeding countries into approval of the “rulebook” rather than point the way to more substantial mitigation by the developed nations.
  • The Special Report, for instance, did little to inspire the developed countries to increase the quantum of climate finance as well as speeding up its delivery. It has been the long-standing argument of the developing world that the bulk of climate finance must be from public sources. In contrast, the developed countries have succeeded in putting other sources of finance, including FDI and equity flows, on par in the accounting of the flow of climate assistance that developing countries need.
  • As the “rulebook” stands today, private sector flows or loans, which will increase the indebtedness of developing countries, are to be considered adequate fulfilment of developed country obligations under the UNFCCC.
  • It is important to note that much of the pressure exerted by developed countries at COP24 had the active backing and instigation of the U.S.
  • Despite the public posturing by other G-8 heads of state outside the climate summits, the marked synergy between the U.S. and its political and strategic allies in pushing through several critical elements of the “rulebook” was no secret.
  • Critics take the view that India, despite its articulation of the need for equity in climate action and climate justice, failed to obtain the operationalisation of these notions in several aspects of the “rulebook”.
  • Even though it pushed for equity, particularly in the benchmarks for the periodic review of the Paris Agreement, it failed to press home its point.
  • Critics further add that successive dispensations in India have fallen short of doing the needful in this regard.
  • In contrast, Brazil held its ground on matters relating to carbon trading that it was concerned about and postponed finalisation of the matter to next year’s summit. Regrettably, while India has not been shy to hold out against the global nuclear order it has not extended this attitude to protecting its interests in the emerging global climate regime.

Poor articulation of needs

  • It is now evident that India underestimated what was at stake at Katowice and the outcome alarmingly signals a serious narrowing of India’s developmental options in the future.
  • A number of environmental and climate think tanks, NGOs and movements have also done their share to disarm the government in the negotiations.
  • Buying uncritically into the climate narrative of the developed nations, they have been continually urging unilateral domestic action on moral grounds, while ignoring the elementary fact that global warming is a global collective action problem.
  • Despite the significant number of Indians at COP24, the broad articulation of India’s needs was at the lowest ebb seen in the last several years.
  • At the final plenary of COP24, the Like-Minded Developing Countries grouping echoed India’s reservations on the neglect of equity and climate justice in the final form of the “rulebook”, while the broader G77 plus China combine expressed its regret at the unbalanced nature of the outcome, with its undue emphasis on mitigation by all.
  • In conclusion, with the “rulebook” nevertheless having been adopted, COP24 signals a global climate regime that benefits and protects the interests of the global rich, while leaving the climatic fate of the world, and the developmental future of a substantial section of its population, still hanging in the balance.

F. Tidbits

1. Maharashtra committed to doubling farmers’ income by 2022

 

  • The Maharashtra state government launched scheme to monitor farming digitally through satellite, drone.
  • ‘Maha Agritech,’is a project under which area under cultivation from sowing to harvesting, climate, and diseases on crops will be monitored digitally using satellite and drone technology.
  • Around 1.5 crore farmers will be brought on digital platform under this program, supported by Maharashtra Remote Application Centre (MRSAC) and ISRO.
  • In its first stage, crop management, area under cultivation will be brought on digital platform in six districts in the rabi season. Satellite monitoring from sowing till harvesting of area under cultivation will be used to predict exact produce. It will be used to counter diseases on crops, including climate change.
  • This will be the first project in the country under which farming will be digitally tracked.

G. Prelims Fact

1. Desalination plants harm environment: UN

 

  • A UN backed study says that Almost 16,000 desalination plants worldwide produce bigger-than-expected flows of highly salty waste water and toxic chemicals that are damaging the environment
  • Desalination plants pump out 142 million cubic metres of salty brine every day, 50% more than previous estimates, to produce 95 million cubic metres of fresh water, the study said.
  • Brine, water comprising about 5% salt, often includes toxins such as chlorine and copper used in desalination.
  • Brine can cut levels of oxygen in seawater near desalination plants with “profound impacts” on shellfish, crabs and other creatures on the seabed, leading to “ecological effects observable throughout the food chain.

2. Millions flock to Sagar Island in Bengal for Makar Sankranti

 

  • Close to 26 lakh devotees have arrived on Sagar Island to take a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on occasion of Makar Sankranti.
  • Sagar island is an island in the Ganges delta, lying on the continental shelf of Bay of Bengal, south of Kolkata.
  • Although Sagar island is a part of Sunderban Administration, it does not have any tiger habitation or mangrove forests or small river tributaries as is characteristic of the overall sunderban delta.
  • Arrangements have been made to ensure that the Gangasagar Mela is a clean, ‘Nirmal Mela’.
  • Plastic has not been allowed; arrangements have been made to ensure flowers and other biodegradables are not allowed in the water.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following with respect to Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) Scheme:
  1. It is a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme.
  2. The scheme has been launched to provide connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports.

Which of the following is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

Question 2. Consider the following statements:
  1. The origin of sedition law in India is linked to the Wahabi Movement of 19th century.
  2. The Sedition Act was first invoked against Bal Gangadhara Tilak in respect of certain articles published in the “Kesari”.

Which of the following is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 3. Increasing unemployment and inflation is a situation of
  1. Hyperinflation
  2. Galloping inflation
  3. Stagflation
  4. Deflation

See

Answer

Question 4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Chakmas are Hindu and Hajongs are Buddhist Refugees.
  2. Chakmas’ language is close to Bengali-Assamese and Hajongs speak a Tibeto-Burman tongue written in Assamese.

Which of the following is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. How far is it justified for India to retain the Sedition law introduced by the British to suppress the freedom struggle, when Britain itself abolished it years ago?
  2. Are some illegal immigrants more equal than the others? Comment in the light of Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019.

See previous CNA

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